As society grapples with issues of transgender acceptance and understanding, The Queens takes viewers out of the politics and onto the stage with an exclusive look inside the U.S.’ most prestigious, longest-running female impersonator beauty pageant.
The Queens humanizes and demystifies this group of primarily transgender individuals who are often misunderstood; they’re a fiercely determined and creative group who recognize the power of showcasing their immense talent and jaw-dropping imagination. The Queens will have you cheering for the creative spirit that lives within us all!
The Queens was “workshopped” at the Pride of the Ocean Film Festival aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas 3600-passenger cruise ship in April 2017. Filmmakers from around the country provided critiques and feedback and The Reporters Inc. is now in the process of making final edits to the film. We’re planning to premiere the film at small, public parties across the nation beginning in 2017! Cheek back here for details, sign up for The Reporters Inc. monthly e-newsletter and follow us on our Facebook page.
Using the framework of the 35-year-old Miss Continental pageant as its backdrop, The Queens explores the complex and fascinating transgender subculture of competitive female impersonation entertainers and their driven and dedicated quest for the crown.
We follow the journeys of several contestants as they diligently plan, prepare and plot their paths to victory. Along the way, we meet several former titleholders, as well as some who have repeatedly competed in the pageant but never left victorious (and are perhaps a bit bitter).
But the documentary focuses on more than just the competition. We delve into the whys and hows of the physical alterations they’ve made to their outer bodies (silicone injections, breast implants, facial reconstruction, etc.), their inner bodies (hormone therapies) and their decisions to refrain from following through with gender confirmation surgery. Some do so in order to conform with Miss Continental’s strict (and some say archaic) rules defining what constitutes a female impersonator–rules that determine who is, and isn’t, eligible to compete and perform.
We also talk with female impersonators who live their lives as men outside the pageant and performance world, and the occasional tensions between them and those who’ve been surgically enhanced.
We examine the difficulty many have finding true and lasting romantic relationships. We address the rejection many have experienced from family, as well as the changing opinions and acceptance of transgender individuals by society in general today.
Because Miss Continental is so closely linked to the legendary female impersonation nightclub, The Baton, in Chicago (Jim Flint created and owns them both), we take a side trip deep inside this iconic, 46-year-old show lounge. We dig into its storied history, and meet the permanent cast, many of whom are former Miss Continental title-holders themselves. We learn why this is the holy grail of female impersonation, and why many new Continental pageant winners hope their victories will lead to permanent employment there for them, as well.
We reveal the shadier and sadder parts of The Baton’s past—mob and police pay-offs to stay open, drugs, prostitution, AIDS, crime, tragic accidents, and even murder. Several former Baton performers (and Miss Continentals) have met horrible, haunting deaths.
Returning to Continental, we get to the bottom of why winning this crown means so much to those in pursuit of the title, why they see it as a stepping stone to greater fame, fortune and success, and–yes–how it’s also a cut-throat competition where occasional acts of sabotage have been known to take place.
You’ll be awestruck by the amount of time and money spent (on makeup, costumes, wigs, backup dancers and more) to win this crown. The contestants shimmer and seduce, titillate and twirl. The glitz, the glamour, the talent and the beauty on display here rival—no–put the Miss America and Miss USA pageants to shame!
With thousands in the audience cheering, there are tears of joy for those who perform well under the Miss Continental stage lights; when the show ends, there are tears of heartbreak in the shadows for those who fared poorly.
To some outsiders, and the uninformed, the dolled-up, lip-synched routines at both Miss Continental and The Baton might seem frivolous, perhaps even pointless, after a few viewings. But The Queens will show you why creating this illusion and this mystique are a way of life for–not only these performers–but for thousands of others just like them (and their devoted fans) across the United States.
Year after year, decade after decade, the show simply must go on.